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Robert J. Flaherty

Robert J. Flaherty

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Robert Joseph Flaherty, F.R.G.S.
Royal Geographical Society
The Royal Geographical Society is a British learned society founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences...

 (February 16, 1884; Iron Mountain, Michigan
Iron Mountain, Michigan
Iron Mountain is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 8,154. It is the county seat of Dickinson County, in the state's Upper Peninsula....

 – July 23, 1951; Dummerston, Vermont
Dummerston, Vermont
Dummerston is a town in Windham County, Vermont, United States. The population was 1,915 at the 2000 census. Dummerston is home to the longest covered bridge still in use inside the state borders of Vermont.-History:...

) was an American filmmaker who directed and produced the first commercially successful feature length documentary film
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

, Nanook of the North
Nanook of the North
Nanook of the North is a 1922 silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty. In the tradition of what would later be called salvage ethnography, Flaherty captured the struggles of the Inuk Nanook and his family in the Canadian arctic...

(1922). The film made his reputation and nothing in his later life fully equaled its success, although he continued the development of this new genre of docufiction
Docufiction
Docufiction is a neologism which refers to the cinematographic combination of documentary and fiction. More precisely, it is a documentary contaminated with fictional elements, in real time, filmed when the events take place, and in which someone - the character - plays his own role in real life...

, e.g. with Moana
Moana
Moana is a documentary film, the first docufiction in the history of cinema, directed by Robert J. Flaherty, the creator of Nanook of the North . Moana was filmed in Samoa in the villages of Safune on the island of Savai'i...

(1926), set in the South Seas, and Man of Aran
Man of Aran
Man of Aran is a fictional documentary by Robert J. Flaherty about life on the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland. It portrays characters living in premodern conditions, documenting their daily routines such as fishing off high cliffs, farming potatoes where there is little soil, and...

(1934), filmed in Ireland's Aran Islands
Aran Islands
The Aran Islands or The Arans are a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. They constitute the barony of Aran in County Galway, Ireland...

.

He is a progenitor of ethnographic film
Ethnographic film
An ethnographic film is a documentary film related to the methods of ethnology. It emerged in the 1960s as an important tool for research in the domain of visual anthropology, when filming human groups in society...

. Jean Rouch
Jean Rouch
Jean Rouch was a French filmmaker and anthropologist.He is considered to be one of the founders of the cinéma vérité in France, which shared the aesthetics of the direct cinema spearheaded by Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker and Albert and David Maysles...

 and John Collier Jr. would practice and theorise the genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 as visual anthropology
Visual anthropology
Visual anthropology is a subfield of cultural anthropology that is concerned, in part, with the study and production of ethnographic photography, film and, since the mid-1990s, new media...

, a subfield of anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, in the 1960s.

Flaherty was married to writer Frances H. Flaherty
Frances H. Flaherty
Frances Hubbard Flaherty was married to acclaimed documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty from 1914 until his death in 1951....

 from 1914 until his death in 1951. Frances worked on several of her husband's films, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Story for Louisiana Story
Louisiana Story
Louisiana Story is a 78-minute black-and-white American film. Although the events and characters depicted are fictional, it is often misidentified as a documentary film. In fact, it is a docufiction. The script was written by Frances H. Flaherty and Robert J. Flaherty, and also directed by Robert...

(1948).

Early life


Flaherty was one of seven children born to prospector
Prospecting
Prospecting is the physical search for minerals, fossils, precious metals or mineral specimens, and is also known as fossicking.Prospecting is a small-scale form of mineral exploration which is an organised, large scale effort undertaken by mineral resource companies to find commercially viable ore...

 Robert Henry Flaherty (an Irish
Irish people
The Irish people are an ethnic group who originate in Ireland, an island in northwestern Europe. Ireland has been populated for around 9,000 years , with the Irish people's earliest ancestors recorded having legends of being descended from groups such as the Nemedians, Fomorians, Fir Bolg, Tuatha...

 Protestant) and Susan Klockner (a German Roman Catholic); he was sent to Upper Canada College
Upper Canada College
Upper Canada College , located in midtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is an independent elementary and secondary school for boys between Senior Kindergarten and Grade Twelve, operating under the International Baccalaureate program. The secondary school segment is divided into ten houses; eight are...

 in Toronto
Toronto
Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. It is located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A relatively modern city, Toronto's history dates back to the late-18th century, when its land was first purchased by the British monarchy from...

 for his education. Flaherty began his career as a prospector in the Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay , sometimes called Hudson's Bay, is a large body of saltwater in northeastern Canada. It drains a very large area, about , that includes parts of Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, most of Manitoba, southeastern Nunavut, as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota,...

 region of Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, working for a railroad company.

Nanook of the North


In 1913, on his expedition to prospect the Belcher Islands
Belcher Islands
The Belcher Islands are an archipelago in Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. Located in Hudson Bay, the Belcher Islands are spread out over almost . The hamlet of Sanikiluaq is on the north coast of Flaherty Island and is the southernmost in Nunavut. Along with Flaherty Island, the other large...

, his boss, Sir William Mackenzie, suggested that he take a motion picture camera along. Flaherty brought with him a Bell and Howell hand cranked motion picture camera. He was particularly intrigued by the life of the Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

 people, and spent so much time filming them that he had begun to neglect his real work. When Flaherty returned to Toronto with 70,000 feet of film, the nitrate film stock was ignited in a fire started from his cigarette, in his editing room. His film was destroyed and he received burns on his hands. Although his editing print was saved and shown several times, Flaherty wasn't satisfied with the results. "It was utterly inept, simply a scene of this or that, no relation, no thread of story or continuity whatever, and it must have bored the audience to distraction. Certainly it bored me."

Flaherty was determined to make a new film, one following a life of a typical Eskimo and his family. In 1920, Flaherty secured funds from Revillon Frères
Revillon Freres
Révillon Frères was a French fur and luxury goods company, founded in 1723.At the end of the 19th century, Revillon had stores in Paris, London, New York, and Montreal. -Fur trading operation:...

, a French fur trade company to shoot what was to become Nanook of the North
Nanook of the North
Nanook of the North is a 1922 silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty. In the tradition of what would later be called salvage ethnography, Flaherty captured the struggles of the Inuk Nanook and his family in the Canadian arctic...

. On the 15th of August, 1920 Flaherty arrived in Port Harrison, Quebec to shoot his film. With him he took two Akeley motion-picture cameras which the Inuit referred to as "the aggie". Flaherty also brought full developing, printing and projection equipment to show the Inuit his film, while he was still in the process of filming. Flaherty lived in an attached cabin to the Revillon Frères trading post.

In making Nanook, Flaherty cast various locals in parts in the film, in the way that one would cast actors in a work of fiction. With the aim of showing traditional Inuit life, Flaherty also staged some scenes, including the ending, where Allakariallak (who acts the part of Nanook) and his screen family were supposedly at risk of dying if they could not find or build shelter quickly enough. The half-igloo had been built beforehand, with a side cut away for light so that Flaherty's camera could get a good shot. Additionally, Flaherty insisted that the Inuit not use rifles to hunt, though their use had by that time become common. He also pretended at one point that he could not hear the hunters' pleas for help, instead continuing to film their struggle and putting them in greater danger.
Melanie McGrath, a writer, writes that, while living in Northern Quebec
Nunavik
Nunavik comprises the northern third of the province of Quebec, Canada. Covering a land area of 443,684.71 km² north of the 55th parallel, it is the homeland of the Inuit of Quebec...

 for the year of filming Nanook, Flaherty had an affair with his lead actress, the young Inuit woman who played Nanook's wife. A few months after he left, she gave birth to his son, Josephie, whom he never acknowledged. Josephie was one of the Inuit who were relocated in the 1950s to very difficult living conditions in Resolute
Resolute, Nunavut
Resolute or Resolute Bay is a small Inuit hamlet on Cornwallis Island in Nunavut, Canada. It is situated at the northern end of Resolute Bay and the Northwest Passage and is part of the Qikiqtaaluk Region....

 and Grise Fiord
Grise Fiord, Nunavut
Grise Fiord, is a small Inuit hamlet in the Qikiqtaaluk Region in the territory of Nunavut, Canada. Despite its low population , it is the largest community on Ellesmere Island...

, in the extreme North (see High Arctic relocation
High Arctic relocation
The High Arctic relocation took place during the Cold War in the 1950s, when 87 Inuit were moved by the Government of Canada to the High Arctic....

). According to McGrath, Flaherty knew of his son's difficulties, but took no action. Corroboration of McGrath's account is not readily available and Flaherty himself never discussed the matter.

Hollywood


Nanook of the North
Nanook of the North
Nanook of the North is a 1922 silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty. In the tradition of what would later be called salvage ethnography, Flaherty captured the struggles of the Inuk Nanook and his family in the Canadian arctic...

(1922
1922 in film
-Events:* June 11 - United States première of Robert J. Flaherty's Nanook of the North, the first commercially successful feature length documentary film....

) was a successful film, and Flaherty was in great demand afterwards. On a contract with Paramount
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

 to produce another film on the order of Nanook, Flaherty went to Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

 to film Moana
Moana
Moana is a documentary film, the first docufiction in the history of cinema, directed by Robert J. Flaherty, the creator of Nanook of the North . Moana was filmed in Samoa in the villages of Safune on the island of Savai'i...

(1926
1926 in film
-Events:*August - Warner Brothers debuts the first Vitaphone film, Don Juan. The Vitaphone system used multiple 33⅓ rpm disc records developed by Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western Electric to play back audio synchronized with film....

). Flaherty shot Moana in Safune
Safune
Safune is a traditional village district on the central north coast of Savai'i island in Samoa. It lies within the electoral constituency of Gaga'ifomauga. Safune is the birthplace of Mau leader Olaf Frederick Nelson and the filming location of Moana , one of the first documentaries made in the world...

 on the island of Savai'i
Savai'i
Savaii is the largest and highest island in Samoa and the Samoa Islands chain. It is also the biggest landmass in Polynesia outside Hawaii and New Zealand. The island of Savai'i is also referred to by Samoans as Salafai, a classical Samoan term used in oratory and prose...

 where he lived with his wife and family for more than a year. The studio heads repeatedly asked for daily rushes but Flaherty had nothing to show because he had not filmed anything yet — his approach was to try to live with the community, becoming familiar with their way of life before building a story around it to film. Flaherty was also concerned that there was no inherent conflict in the islanders' way of life, providing further incentive not to shoot anything. Eventually he decided to build the film around the ritual of a boy's entry to manhood
Rite of passage
A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person's progress from one status to another. It is a universal phenomenon which can show anthropologists what social hierarchies, values and beliefs are important in specific cultures....

. Flaherty was in Samoa from April 1923 until December 1924, with the film completed in December 1925 and released the following month. The film, on its release, was not as successful as Nanook of the North domestically, but it did very well in Europe, inspiring John Grierson
John Grierson
John Grierson was a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, often considered the father of British and Canadian documentary film. According to popular myth, in 1926, Grierson coined the term "documentary" to describe a non-fiction film.-Early life:Grierson was born in Deanston, near Doune, Scotland...

 to coin the word "documentary."

Before the release of Moana, Flaherty made two short films in New York City with private backing, The Pottery Maker (1925) and The Twenty-Four Dollar Island (1927). Irving Thalberg
Irving Thalberg
Irving Grant Thalberg was an American film producer during the early years of motion pictures. He was called "The Boy Wonder" for his youth and his extraordinary ability to select the right scripts, choose the right actors, gather the best production staff and make very profitable films.-Life and...

 of M-G-M invited Flaherty to film White Shadows in the South Seas
White Shadows in the South Seas
White Shadows in the South Seas is a silent film adventure romance produced by Cosmopolitan Productions in association with MGM and distributed by MGM. The movie was directed by W.S. Van Dyke and starred Monte Blue and Raquel Torres...

 (1928) in collaboration with W. S. Van Dyke
W. S. Van Dyke
Woodbridge Strong "Woody" Van Dyke, Jr. was an American motion picture director.-Early life and career:...

, but their talents proved an uncomfortable fit, and Flaherty resigned from the production. Moving to Fox, Flaherty spent eight months working on the Native American documentary Acoma the Sky City (1929) but the production was shut down, and subsequently Flaherty's footage was lost in a studio vault fire. Flaherty then agreed to collaborate with F. W. Murnau on another South Seas picture, Tabu
Tabu
Tabu may refer to:*Tapu , a Polynesian cultural concept, from which the word taboo derives*Tabu , a 1931 award winning film*Tabu , Indian actress*Tabu Ley, Congolese musician...

, but this combination proved even more volatile, and while Flaherty did contribute significantly to the story, the finished film is essentially Murnau's.

Britain


After Tabu
Tabu
Tabu may refer to:*Tapu , a Polynesian cultural concept, from which the word taboo derives*Tabu , a 1931 award winning film*Tabu , Indian actress*Tabu Ley, Congolese musician...

, Flaherty was considered finished in Hollywood, and Frances Flaherty contacted John Grierson
John Grierson
John Grierson was a pioneering Scottish documentary maker, often considered the father of British and Canadian documentary film. According to popular myth, in 1926, Grierson coined the term "documentary" to describe a non-fiction film.-Early life:Grierson was born in Deanston, near Doune, Scotland...

 of the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit in London, who assigned Flaherty to the documentary Industrial Britain (1933). By comparison to Grierson and his unit, Flaherty's habitual working methods involved shooting relatively large amounts of film in relation to the planned length of the eventual finished movie, and the ensuing cost overruns obliged Grierson to take Flaherty off the project, which was edited by other hands into three shorter films.

Flaherty's career in Britain ended when producer Alexander Korda
Alexander Korda
Sir Alexander Korda was a Hungarian-born British producer and film director. He was a leading figure in the British film industry, the founder of London Films and the owner of British Lion Films, a film distributing company.-Life and career:The elder brother of filmmakers Zoltán Korda and Vincent...

 removed him from the production Elephant Boy
Elephant Boy
Elephant Boy may refer to:*Elephant Boy , a 1937 film based on a story from Kipling's Jungle Book* "Elephant Boy", the nickname of Fred Schreiber, of The Howard Stern Shows The Wack Pack...

 (1937), re-editing it into a commercial entertainment picture.

Ireland


Producer Michael Balcon
Michael Balcon
Sir Michael Elias Balcon was an English film producer, known for his work with Ealing Studios.-Background:...

 took Flaherty on to direct Man of Aran
Man of Aran
Man of Aran is a fictional documentary by Robert J. Flaherty about life on the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland. It portrays characters living in premodern conditions, documenting their daily routines such as fishing off high cliffs, farming potatoes where there is little soil, and...

 (1934), which portrayed the harsh traditional lifestyle of the occupants of the isolated Aran Islands
Aran Islands
The Aran Islands or The Arans are a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. They constitute the barony of Aran in County Galway, Ireland...

 off the west coast of Ireland. Man of Aran was a major critical success, and for decades was considered in some circles an even greater achievement than Nanook. As with Nanook, Man of Aran showed human beings' efforts to survive under extreme conditions: in this case, an island whose soils were so thin that the inhabitants carried seaweed up from the sea to construct fields for cultivation. As with Nanook, too, Flaherty cast locals in the various fictionalized roles, and made use of dramatic recreation of anachronistic behaviors: in this case, a sequence showing the hunting of sharks from small boats with harpoons, which the islanders had by then not practiced for several decades. He also staged the film's climactic sequence, in which three men in a small boat strive to row back to shore through perilously high, rock-infested seas.

Last Years


Back in the United States, Pare Lorentz
Pare Lorentz
Pare Lorentz was an American filmmaker known for his movies about the New Deal. Born Leonard MacTaggart Lorentz in Clarksburg, West Virginia, he was educated at Wesleyan College and West Virginia University. As a young film critic in New York and Hollywood, Lorentz spoke out against censorship in...

 of the United States Film Service hired Flaherty to film a documentary about US agriculture: a project which became The Land (1942). Flaherty and his wife covered some 100,000 miles, shooting 25,000 feet of film, and captured a series of striking images of rural America. Among the themes raised by Flaherty's footage were the challenge of the erosion of agricultural land and the Dust Bowl
Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl, or the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936...

 (as well as the beginning of effective responses via improved soil conservation practices), mechanization and rural unemployment, and large-scale migration from the Great Plains to California. In the latter context, Flaherty highlighted competition for agricultural jobs between native-born Americans and migrants from Mexico and the Philippines.

The film encountered a series of obstacles. After production had begun, Congress abolished the United States Film Service, and the project was shunted to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). With US entry to World War 2 approaching, USDA officials (and the film's editor Helen van Dongen
Helen van Dongen
Helen van Dongen was a pioneering editor of documentary films who was active from about 1925-1950. She collaborated with filmmaker Joris Ivens from 1925 to 1940, made several independent documentaries, and edited two of Robert Flaherty's films before retiring from filmmaking in her 40s.-Life and...

) attempted to reconcile Flaherty's footage with rapidly changing official messages (including a reversal of concern from pre-war rural unemployment to wartime labor shortages). Following Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

, officials grew apprehensive that the film could project an unduly negative image of the US internationally, and although a prestige opening was held at the Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
The Museum of Modern Art is an art museum in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world...

 in 1942, the film was never authorized for general release.

Louisiana Story
Louisiana Story
Louisiana Story is a 78-minute black-and-white American film. Although the events and characters depicted are fictional, it is often misidentified as a documentary film. In fact, it is a docufiction. The script was written by Frances H. Flaherty and Robert J. Flaherty, and also directed by Robert...

(1948
1948 in film
The year 1948 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* Laurence Olivier's Hamlet becomes the first British film to win the American Academy Award for Best Picture.-Top grossing films : After theatrical re-issue- Awards :...

) was a Flaherty documentary shot by himself and Richard Leacock
Richard Leacock
Richard Leacock was a British-born documentary film director and one of the pioneers of Direct Cinema and Cinéma vérité.-Early life and career:...

, this one about the installation of an oil rig
Oil platform
An oil platform, also referred to as an offshore platform or, somewhat incorrectly, oil rig, is a lаrge structure with facilities to drill wells, to extract and process oil and natural gas, and to temporarily store product until it can be brought to shore for refining and marketing...

 in a Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 swamp. The film stresses the oil rig's peaceful and unproblematic coexistence with the surrounding environment, and was in fact funded by Standard Oil
Standard Oil
Standard Oil was a predominant American integrated oil producing, transporting, refining, and marketing company. Established in 1870 as a corporation in Ohio, it was the largest oil refiner in the world and operated as a major company trust and was one of the world's first and largest multinational...

, a petroleum company. The main character of the film is a Cajun
Cajun
Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in the U.S. state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles...

 boy. The poetry of childhood and nature, some critics would argue, is used to make the exploration of oil look beautiful. Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the "American Sound" in classical music...

 composed the music for the film.

Flaherty was one of the Directors of The Titan: Story of Michelangelo
The Titan: Story of Michelangelo
The Titan: Story of Michelangelo is a 1950 documentary film. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.The film was a re-edited version of a German/Swiss film of 1938 originally titled Michelangelo: Life of a Titan, directed by Curt Oertel. The re-edited version put a new English...

 (1950), which won an Academy Award for documentary feature. The film was a re-edited version of the German/Swiss film of 1938 originally titled Michelangelo: Life of a Titan, directed by Curt Oertel. The re-edited version put a new English narration by Frederic March and musical score onto a shorter edit of the existing film. The new credits include Flaherty, Oertel and Richard Lyford as Directors and Ralph Alswang, Flaherty and Robert Snyder as Producers. The film was edited by Richard Lyford.

Legacy


Flaherty is considered a pioneer of documentary film
Documentary film
Documentary films constitute a broad category of nonfictional motion pictures intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record...

. He was one of the first to combine documentary subjects with a fiction-film-like narrative and poetic treatment.

Flaherty Island
Flaherty Island
Flaherty Island is an island in the Belcher Islands group in Hudson Bay in Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. The island has a very unusual shape....

, one of the Belcher Islands
Belcher Islands
The Belcher Islands are an archipelago in Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. Located in Hudson Bay, the Belcher Islands are spread out over almost . The hamlet of Sanikiluaq is on the north coast of Flaherty Island and is the southernmost in Nunavut. Along with Flaherty Island, the other large...

 in Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay
Hudson Bay , sometimes called Hudson's Bay, is a large body of saltwater in northeastern Canada. It drains a very large area, about , that includes parts of Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, most of Manitoba, southeastern Nunavut, as well as parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota,...

, is named in his honor.

The Flaherty Seminar is an annual international forum for independent filmmakers and film-lovers, held in rural upstate New York. The festival was founded in Flaherty's honor by his widow in 1955.

Flaherty's contribution to the advent of the documentary is scrutinised in the 2010 documentary 'A Boatload of Wild Irishmen", written by Professor Brian Winston
Brian Winston
Brian Winston was the first Lincoln Chair of Communications at the University of Lincoln, United Kingdom. He was a Pro Vice Chancellor for 2005-2006 and the former dean of communications....

 of University of Lincoln, UK, and directed by Mac Dara O'Curraidhin. The film explores the nature of 'controlled actuality' and sheds new light on thinking about Flaherty. The argument is made that the impact of Flaherty's films on the indigenous peoples portrayed changes over time, as the films become valuable records for subsequent generations of now-lost ways of life. The film's title derives from Flaherty's own statement that he had been accused, in the staged climactic sequence of Man of Aran, of "trying to drown a boatload of wild Irishmen".

Filmography


  • Nanook of the North
    Nanook of the North
    Nanook of the North is a 1922 silent documentary film by Robert J. Flaherty. In the tradition of what would later be called salvage ethnography, Flaherty captured the struggles of the Inuk Nanook and his family in the Canadian arctic...

    (1922)
  • The Pottery Maker (1925)
  • Moana
    Moana
    Moana is a documentary film, the first docufiction in the history of cinema, directed by Robert J. Flaherty, the creator of Nanook of the North . Moana was filmed in Samoa in the villages of Safune on the island of Savai'i...

    (1926)
  • The Twenty-four Dollar Island (1927) short documentary of New York City
  • White Shadows in the South Seas
    White Shadows in the South Seas
    White Shadows in the South Seas is a silent film adventure romance produced by Cosmopolitan Productions in association with MGM and distributed by MGM. The movie was directed by W.S. Van Dyke and starred Monte Blue and Raquel Torres...

    (1928)
  • Acoma the Sky City (1929; unfinished)
  • Tabu
    Tabu (film)
    Tabu is a 1931 film directed by F.W. Murnau. The film is split into two chapters, the first called "Paradise" depicts the lives of two lovers on a South Seas island until they are forced to escape the island when the girl is chosen as a holy maid to the gods...

    (1931) co-wrote with F. W. Murnau
  • Industrial Britain (1931)
  • Man of Aran
    Man of Aran
    Man of Aran is a fictional documentary by Robert J. Flaherty about life on the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland. It portrays characters living in premodern conditions, documenting their daily routines such as fishing off high cliffs, farming potatoes where there is little soil, and...

    (1934)
  • Elephant Boy
    Elephant Boy (film)
    Elephant Boy is a 1937 British adventure film starring Sabu in his film debut. Documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty and Zoltan Korda won the Best Director Award at the Venice Film Festival...

    (1937)
  • The Land (1942) 45-minute documentary made for the U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Louisiana Story
    Louisiana Story
    Louisiana Story is a 78-minute black-and-white American film. Although the events and characters depicted are fictional, it is often misidentified as a documentary film. In fact, it is a docufiction. The script was written by Frances H. Flaherty and Robert J. Flaherty, and also directed by Robert...

    (1948)
  • The Titan: Story of Michelangelo
    The Titan: Story of Michelangelo
    The Titan: Story of Michelangelo is a 1950 documentary film. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.The film was a re-edited version of a German/Swiss film of 1938 originally titled Michelangelo: Life of a Titan, directed by Curt Oertel. The re-edited version put a new English...

    (1950)

Awards

  • BAFTA presents the Robert J. Flaherty Award for best one-off documentary.
  • Academy Award Oscar - Best Documentary Feature 1950 - The Titan: Story of Michelangelo
  • 1913, Fellow, Royal Geographical Society
    Royal Geographical Society
    The Royal Geographical Society is a British learned society founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical sciences...


Further reading


  • Frances H. Flaherty
    Frances H. Flaherty
    Frances Hubbard Flaherty was married to acclaimed documentary filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty from 1914 until his death in 1951....

    , The Odyssey of a Filmmaker: Robert Flaherty's Story (Urbana, IL: Beta Phi Mu
    Beta Phi Mu
    Beta Phi Mu is the international honor society for library & information science and information technology. Founded by a group of librarians and library educators, the society's express purpose is to recognize and encourage "superior academic achievement" among library and information studies...

    , 1960). Beta Phi Mu chapbook no. 4
  • Calder-Marshall, Arthur, The Innocent Eye; The Life of Robert J. Flaherty. Based on research material by Paul Rotha
    Paul Rotha
    Paul Rotha was a British documentary film-maker, film historian and critic. He was educated at Highgate School....

     and Basil Wright
    Basil Wright
    Basil Wright, , was a documentary filmmaker, film historian, film critic and teacher.-Biography:...

     (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966)
  • Murphy, William Thomas, Robert Flaherty: A Guide to References and Resources (Boston: G. K. Hall and Company, 1978)
  • Paul Rotha
    Paul Rotha
    Paul Rotha was a British documentary film-maker, film historian and critic. He was educated at Highgate School....

    , Flaherty: A Biography (University of Pennsylvania
    University of Pennsylvania
    The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

     Press, 1984)
  • Barsam, Richard, The Vision of Robert Flaherty: The Artist As Myth and Filmmaker (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press
    Indiana University Press
    Indiana University Press, also known as IU Press, is an academic publisher at Indiana University that specializes in the humanities and social sciences. It was founded in 1950. Its headquarters are located in Bloomington, Indiana....

    , 1988)
  • Christopher, Robert J., Robert & Frances Flaherty: A Documentary Life 1883-1922 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press
    McGill-Queen's University Press
    The McGill-Queen's University Press is a joint venture between McGill University in Montreal, Quebec and Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario....

    , 2005)
  • McGrath, Melanie, The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic. ISBN 0-00-715796-7 (London: Fourth Estate, 2006). ISBN 1-4000-4047-7 (New York: Random House, 2007). The story of forced removal of Inuit peoples in Canada in 1953, including Flaherty's illegitimate Inuit son Josephie.


External links